Chirau Ali Makwere, the minister for environment started the trend. When one gets caught out on a hate speech charge and hauled to court, the password is sorry. Go up there in-front of the judge, wearing your most remorseful face and say ‘I am sorry your honour”. It got Mwakwere off the hook but things won’t be as rosy for Embakasi MP, Ferdinand Waititu. This is the new Kenya guided by the spirit of the new constitution however many are still stuck in the old ways.
Speak loosely and it is just not going to work to claim one was misquoted. Not with five TV stations running the same clip and Kenyans-on-twitter vigilante in no mood for long explanations. Waititu has become a serial-inciter with a hands-on -approach to conflict. He believes that there is no dispute that a good soak to the jaw won’t resolve. Held hostage by his past, he plies his street credentials and does not want to be seen as soft. When you have an issue with land grabbers and need some muscle, dial Waititu. Therefore, in typical cavalier style, Waititu donned the populist hat and in full view of cameras, flanked by police officers, gave a blanket condemnation against a section of his constituents steeped in ethnic stereotypes that instigated a blow-back he never saw coming.
The Embakasi MP then tried to pass off his outrageous remarks as a ‘slip of tongue’. A slip of tongue is an unintentional use of a word in the wrong context, a trivial mistake. Sometimes they are called gaffes and they are usually funny. You are sitting at a restaurant, a full blossomed waitress wearing a shirt one size too small asks for your order and you blurt out “I would like some brown breast (bread) and fried eggs”. Or the Company manager, who tells a conference of sale reps, “About sex(set) backs in business”. That is what constitutes a slip of tongue.
Probably picking the cue from Ali Mwakwere, Waititu offered a belated apology. To plead sorry after instigating violence is a sorry excuse for an apology. At that level of blundering, sorry is a bit of a stretch. If I went to Bangkok and someone came up to me and said “ Sai bai Dee”, I would reply, “Sorry, I don’t speak Thai’. Your wife calls and you are in a noisy bar, you can say, “Sorry dear, I did not hear the phone ring”. Sorry is what you tell the cop who catches you speaking into your cell phone while driving.
At the Mheshimiwa level, you have to eat your words, by reading out a public statement, have your wife by your side, explaining in detail why you are sorry and promise never to do it again. Then pay a stiff fine and go serve your time.
Kenyans are basically fed up of thugs hiding behind parliament immunity. MPs have to be reminded of the new standard in place. Legislators have to learn be fearful of the consequence of loose tongues but it going to take some time to teach old dogs new tricks.
Waititu is a stark reminder that democracy is a double edged sword, where one side’s villain is the other side’s champion of the downtrodden. After all, this is a country where it is not beyond the government to say ‘Sorry we sold your wildlife’.